Jeanne La Pucelle 2-part French film with English subtitles (1994)

English title: Joan The Maid The Battles The Prisons

French with English subtitles, Director Jacques Rivette, starring Sandrine Bonnaire

Watch the full-length film free on YouTube (in 2 parts)

Part 1

Part 2

Movie cover: Jeanne la Pucelle by Jacques Rivette

Much of the text for this film comes straight from historical transcripts of the rehabilitation trial, when, 25 years after Joan’s execution for heresy, the French church court traveled all over France collecting testimony from witnesses who knew Joan in all walks of life, making this one of the most authentic and least Hollywood depictions of her story. Filmed in France using actual historic landmark sites with great attention to authentic detail in costumes and scenery. The film presents the story of Joan’s life in an straightforward chronological order but moves between the direct testimony of witnesses and on-scene live re-enactments of Joan’s story.

“Joan the Maid is the clearest and least judgmental version available. It is also the least Hollywood version. The screenplay is a straighforward, chronological narrative, and Rivette gives us a series of tableaux along the lines of a medieval passion play. The abrupt blackouts are a little distracting, but the scenes themselves are beautifully played and shot.” JLH, reviewer

“Jeanne la Pucelle 1. Les Batailles[Joan the Maid: the Battles]” begins with Joan’s efforts to obtain permission to see the Dauphin in Chinon and ends with his coronation….Most of the early scenes come directly from the rehabilitation hearings where she was portrayed as a faultless saint in keeping with the newly restored French government. Many of the actors in this beginning section seem to pose and speak directly to the camera rather than to each other like they were in a tableau or an elementary school Passion play. It may have been deliberate, but it didn’t work for me. What did work was the great attention to detail and the settings. Jacques Rivette went out of his way to stay with documented facts and to take advantage of the true French landmarks and countryside. I loved the way he played each scene out regardless of what happened with the horses, props, or men, letting the accidents happen as part of the action. “Jeanne la Pucelle 2. Les prisons[Joan the Maid: the Prisons]” stayed with documented facts, using a fade-to-black after every scene, to give a flawless view of Joan and the people she encountered. Sandrine Bonnaire was outstanding in every respect. Her interpretation of Joan did honor to both the warrior saint and the human girl caught up in a tragedy. The prison and trial sequences worked in every respect because the director did not do more than let each character speak his or her mind. I especially loved the early prison sequences where Rivette contrasted the world of women with the world of men, again, giving each character a full and believable voice. It is the best historical treatment I have seen in a long time and by far the best Joan.” David Clapp, Reviewer

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2 thoughts on “Jeanne La Pucelle 2-part French film with English subtitles (1994)

  1. As one might expect, this French film avoids the typical musical embellishment and special effects associated with a Hollywood style. It proceeds through Joan’s story at a leisurely pace (read: long and slow-moving) so the viewer has time to digest more about the context and characters surrounding Joan. Most of the film is shot in a straightforward story-telling style, but occasionally it flashes forward to a character we just saw in action now older and reflecting documentary style for the camera. I recognized many of these bits as coming straight out of the testimony witnesses gave at her nullification trial, which tells us that the specific character and the interactions we had just seen were also real. Likewise, I recognized many of Joan’s lines as direct quotes from her own documented words. Rather than showy special effects, the film is rich in subtle foreshadowing, cinematic symbolism and nuanced scenes that show the conflicting interests and concerns of the real people in the context of Joan’s story. The film does make some unusual choices about what to include and not include – it spends 16 minutes on rich visuals of the coronation ceremony but shows almost nothing of Joan’s trial. The free YouTube versions have excellent picture quality, but the volume level is so low I had to max out the volume on my speakers.

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